Ascension Parish Council approves insurance policy

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
District 4's Corey Orgeron gestures while speaking during the Ascension Parish Council meeting held March 3 at the courthouse in Donaldsonville.

The Ascension Parish Council approved its property and casualty insurance policy during the meeting held at the Donaldsonville courthouse on March 3.

Bret Hughes of Hughes Insurance Services LLC, which is based in Gonzales, said "the picture is dire" from an insurance perspective for Louisiana, considering the devastation caused by hurricanes Ida, Laura, and Delta over the last two years.

Hughes, the owner and president of the company, told the council the insurance companies modeled a worst-case scenario for the parish.

He said the layering process included 11 companies that wrote the $50 million in coverage.

Though he pointed out a 10,000-year and 5,000-year event has never happened, he wanted to see the worst-case scenario and if it provided ample coverage. 

He said the two most expensive buildings insured in the parish are the new parish governmental building and the new courthouse on the east side in Gonzales.

"We were literally told by every market we went to, 'You cannot get 153 million in coverage this year for Ascension Parish. It is not possible.'"

He said other parishes and municipalities in the state are going through the same issues with insurance coverage following the hurricanes.

Hughes also mentioned many of the parish's more expensive properties are more spread out, potentially lessening the impact of an event such as a tornado that may occur in a specific area.

In answering the council's questions, Hughes said the original plan was to have the policy renewal ready for February.

He pointed out many properties renew policies between January and April. Further complicating matters, reinsurance treaties renew around March and April.

"We want to try get it to you three weeks or so prior to the renewal date, at your February meeting," Hughes said.

District 4's Corey Orgeron said he was concerned about how the council had to make "last second" decisions on insurance in both 2020 and 2021.

"This year we're having the same thing. Now we're entering into a contract with you three days after the previous policies ran out. There is a concern here, and it seems like there is a trend that continues to take place," Orgeron said.

He suggested a resolution for the insurance options to be prepared in January so the council can review it in finance committee and in full council meetings.

Hughes said the insurance companies do not start the process until about 90 days before due to the many other policies renewing.

"Right now, we're all sitting up here either with, 'Yes, go for it,' or we're telling the parish, 'You don't have insurance.' There are no options left for us at this stage. That puts us in a very difficult situation," Orgeron said.